Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The phone and tablet space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here are our top five games this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
iOS ($6.99) | Android (Aug 2012)
We’ll be honest, we were a bit nervous when we heard Phosphor Games was announced as a Zynga Partner for Mobile for their newest title, Horn. Fortunately, it seems Zynga hasn’t interfered with the development of the game itself, and is lending its big name to help Phosphor keep themselves near the top of the App Store for a sustained period of time. But let’s get to the game, shall we?
Horn is the story of a boy named... well, Horn. One day, he wakes up to his world completely changed: his town is in ruins, there are some colossus-like beings wandering about, and he has no idea what’s happened. Of course, the best adventures begin thusly, and Horn sets out to make things right and get everything back to normal. The very first thing you’ll notice are the environments. In fact, you’ll keep noticing them; Horn has a visual quality reminiscent of Fable, and you’ll never cease to be amazed at the beauty packed into every detail. Everywhere you look, Horn is lovely. The voice acting is fantastic too, with some talented folks giving life to each entity you come across (Gourd’s is particularly great).
The combat mechanics are solid, with an Infinity Blade-esque feel to them. Unfortunately, the controls can be a bit unwieldy, with a “tap on a spot to move to it” scheme that’s mediocre at best and frustrating at worst, so we’re hoping Phosphor adds in a virtual d-pad to help ease the pain of invisible walls. Overall though, it’s a minor annoyance that tends to fade into the background once you get the hang of it, and it shouldn’t keep anyone interested from picking it up.
We’re kind of terrible at those fun party games that require you to do two separate things with your hands; patting your head while rubbing your stomach is kind of tough for most people, though, and Toybox attempts to capitalize on that split-action fun with an interesting, fresh concept. You’ll be playing one game on the left, while the right offers a totally different experience.
One of our favorite parts of Toybox is that the developers present you with just one game per week. Everyone plays the same mini game, and the leaderboards show how well you’re doing against everyone else playing. The launch game is a Galaga-style shooting game, and the right is a match-3 block game. It’s a great way to mix things up and keep people coming back every week, and the quirky soundtrack and challenging mechanics only enhance an already fun, bubbly game. Also, don’t let the iPhone-only tag scare you off if you’ve got an iPad. The scaling looks good and plays just as well.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of Sunshine, we have to warn you: It was chosen for its often-insane difficulty and crazy concept. So if those things don’t appeal to you, Sunshine might not be your cup of tea, either. That being said, we’re having an outright blast playing Sunshine, frustration included. The multiverse is taken over by evil black holes, and it’s your job as a photon (a very creepy cat-looking photon, to be specific) to collect starlets and bring light back to the universe.
Picking up little bits of light doesn’t seem too tough, until you actually look at Sunshine’s field of play. Each level is a series of “orbits” you’ll have to jump between in order to collect those starlets; some orbits are safe, some have spots of singularities you’ll have to hop over, and some are straight up black holes that will suck you into the darkness if you don’t hop fast enough. You’ll have to have your wits about you, as each jump must be precisely calculated, but honestly? We think that’s what makes Sunshine so much fun. Everyone needs a hard game like Sunshine on their phone or tablet.
Mikey Shorts is why we love mobile gaming. This little gem didn’t come from a huge publisher, or a staff of 50. It came from two guys who decided to make an iOS game that also happens to be really damn good. From the coin collecting to the costume unlocks, platformer enthusiasts everywhere will love Mikey Shorts and its expansive array of classic arcade action. If you’ve ever yearned for the 8-bit days of Super Mario Bros., then have we got a game for you.
Wondrously, the controls in Mikey Shorts are about as close to perfection as possible for a virtual d-pad and buttons. It’s an important piece of the puzzle in all games, but in Mikey Shorts, it’s what makes the game as flawless as it is. Each level offers three goals: coins, shorts, and speed. You’ll spend hours lost in Mikey Shorts, trying to best your records (and everyone else’s). Story mode flat out flies by, while the challenge mode is a delight for anyone who calls themselves a fan of platforming.
Spirits has been out for iPad for around a year now, but recently it’s made it to “Humble Bundle 3 for Android,” and it’s worth another look if only for the Android users out there. This award-winning title is well worth the price of admission (especially on Android, where it’s a steal at $2.99). Each level is a gorgeous, hand-drawn environment, and tiny spirits must be guided towards a spiraling exit. Alas, it isn’t quite that easy...
In order to get to said exit, you’ll have to make some of your spirits morph into helpful things, like diggers, ivy inclines, or wind-blowing clouds. Unfortunately for you, each time you morph a spirit, it’s a sacrifice for the rest of the group. Trust us when we say you’ll spend hours gazing at the beautiful scenery while fretting about how to lose the least amount of spirits in each level, and admiring the technical work that went into the creation of such a zen-like yet happiness-filled title. Spirits is just that good.
Ashley Esqueda is a tech pundit, cylon, and all-around mobile nerd who contributes to Mobile Nations, Techfoolery, and Tecca. If you're playing a game you think should be in Knuckle Up, follow her on Twitter or circle her on Google+ and send it over!